New Report: More Disease Experts Needed in Communities Across the Country as Paralyzing Polio-Like Illness Among Children Confirmed in 22 States
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 18, 2018
Coalition of Big City Health Departments Releases Survey of Epidemiologists
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) and Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) released a new study today, which shows that to fully meet the challenges posed by America’s concurrent public health emergencies, health departments would need to grow their epidemiology staff by 40 percent. This survey was fielded for the first time collaboratively by BCHC and CSTE and conducted among 27 big city health departments.
Epidemiologists, sometimes called “disease detectives,” are expert scientists who are responsible for tracking disease outbreaks, like that of the polio-like disease affecting children, called acute flaccid myelitis (or AFM), as well as substance abuse issues, like the opioid epidemic, or chronic disease like asthma or obesity. These experts also play an essential role in keep communities healthy and safe between major crises.
The Big Cities Health Coalition is a forum for the leaders of America’s largest metropolitan health departments to exchange strategies and jointly address issues to promote and protect the health and safety of their residents. Collectively, BCHC member jurisdictions directly impact more than 55 million people, or one in six Americans.
This snapshot of epidemiology capacity in BCHC member health departments undertaken last year finds that while there were nearly 1,100 epidemiologists working in big cities across the country, gaps remain. When asked which types of epidemiologists are needed most departments responded that they need an increase of:
- 121percent in injury/violence epidemiologists;
- 86 percent in maternal and child health epidemiologists;
- 72 percent in chronic disease epidemiologists;
- 66 percent in disaster preparedness epidemiologists; and
- 51 percent in substance abuse epidemiologists.
To read the full report, visit our website.
“Our member health departments are using scarce local dollars, and doing more with less, as they work to combat concurrent and ever emerging public health emergencies, such as AFM and the opioid epidemic, with 40 percent fewer disease experts than they need,” said Chrissie Juliano, Director of the Big Cities Health Coalition. “Epidemiologists are boots on the ground. They spot, track, and stem health threats. Spreading them this thin puts Americans at risk, pure and simple. Leaders at all levels of government need to reassess how we fund this important work to ensure that experts on the front lines have the resources necessary to address public health emergencies, no matter where and when they crop up.”
CSTE’s Executive Director Jeffrey Engel, MD, added, “Applied epidemiologists are the “disease detectives” working in health departments across the nation, and these experts are an integral part of the overall public health picture. Moving forward, it is crucial that we ensure there is adequate epidemiology capacity to detect outbreaks, such as Acute Flaccid Myelitis.”
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About the Big Cities Health Coalition
The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) is a forum for the leaders of America’s largest metropolitan health departments to exchange strategies and jointly address issues to promote and protect the health and safety of their residents. Collectively, BCHC member jurisdictions directly impact nearly 62 million people, or one in five Americans. For more information, visit https://www.bigcitieshealth.org.
About the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists
Founded in 1951, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) is the professional home for nearly 2000 practicing applied epidemiologists working at the state, local, tribal and territorial levels, as well as federal, academic, corporate and non-profit settings. In addition, CSTE represents the interests of State Epidemiologists from all 50 U.S. states and the U.S. territories, comprising the Council. Our subcommittees and workgroups serve as communities of practice that shape the future of public health applied epidemiology practice and policy. For more information, please visit www.cste.org.